The remainder of this pamphlet is concerned with assisting in the process of determining when and how the "recording" of ministers (i.e. recording a special gift in ministry) by the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel should take place.
The recording process is initiated by the local Ministry and Counsel, not by the person to be recorded. If approved by the monthly meeting, a minute is then forwarded for action to the Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel of the Yearly Meeting. The person under consideration may be a pastor, but is not necessarily one. In fact, some pastors are not recorded ministers or even members of the Religious Society of Friends, and many recorded ministers are not pastors. The assumption, however, is that a recorded minister is recognized by the Yearly Meeting as having a calling and a service to perform that extends beyond local boundaries and is likely to continue in its spiritual depth throughout life. Such a person may very well be called to service outside the Yearly Meeting, and a recording of a gift by the Yearly Meeting therefore serves as its recommendation to Friends in other parts of the world that the person's ministry has been found generally helpful to large numbers of Friends throughout the Yearly Meeting, not just in the local meeting.
A number of questions are considered by the monthly meeting initiating the process of Yearly Meeting recording and by the Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel. The Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel, after appointing a committee to examine the matter in detail and after considering its report, makes a recommendation to the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel. The Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel makes the final decision. A fundamental question throughout is this: Will this person be a guided and spirit-filled minister wherever he or she goes, under all circumstances and apart from any appointments or employment? Does what we see of this person reveal a fundamental decision, a lifelong commitment to the work of God and the building of others' lives?
Specific questions to be considered by the committees of both the monthly meeting and the Yearly Meeting include, but are not limited to, the following:
- What has been the person's spiritual journey, including struggles, openings, leadings?
- Is the person knowledgeable of New York Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice? To what degree does the person have unity with it?
- Is the person knowledgeable of the breadth of Friends' beliefs, history, and practices across the whole Quaker spectrum? Does the person have the ability to work with many different sorts of Friends, considering that the person is being recommended for service to Friends everywhere, not just in one locality?
- What knowledge and spiritual understanding does the person have concerning the Bible and other religious works? This is not to be judged strictly according to the beliefs of members of the committee. It is often helpful for the committee to see the person's own library or reading list.
- What knowledge and personal convictions does the person have concerning various social and spiritual testimonies of Friends? This is particularly critical for people whose ministry will include service among non-Friends, but is important for all.
- What is the extent of the person's travel among the wider family of Friends and participation in regional meetings and Yearly Meeting?
- What understanding does the person have of the principles of leadership? What ability does the person have to put them into practice?
- What is the depth of the person's prayer life and personal disciplines, both spiritual disciplines and other kinds?
- Does the person have the ability to listen, to receive and offer correction and criticism, and to forgive?
- What are the attitudes and perspectives of other family members on the person and his or her ministry?
- Is there consistency between the person's public life and private life?
- To what degree has the person received formal training in subjects pertaining to ministry?
For a person undergoing preparation for ministry through a formal course of training, the committee may be helpful throughout, offering counsel and assistance. It is understood that a calling to minister is not undertaken lightly or without the encouragement and spiritual support of a person's meeting.
Such preparation is a process taking years, and a person being encouraged to prepare in this way will expect the periodic guidance and counsel of his or her local Ministry and Counsel, prior to its initiation of a formal request to the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel for recording. Upon occasion, the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel may suggest ways, such as further education, which would be helpful in preparing for wider service among Friends as a recorded minister.
The process of recording is not a hasty one. It will certainly take a year to complete, and in many cases longer, as the Yearly Meeting's committee has a heavy responsibility to become thoroughly acquainted with the person under consideration and with those who know him or her best. The three or four Friends on this committee will hopefully be able to make several trips in doing this work. The committee may well include both those who have been on such committees before and those who have not. It may be helpful to include persons who do not know the candidate well, although it is assumed that a person to be recorded will not be entirely unknown to Friends who regularly participate in Yearly Meeting affairs. A person recorded by the Yearly Meeting is expected to make an ongoing contribution to the life of the whole Religious Society of Friends, not merely of a local meeting.
Specific guidelines for the committee appointed by the Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel include the following:
- The clerk (or first person named, if a clerk has not yet been appointed) will acquire a copy of the letter sent by the local meeting to the Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel and of the minute of appointment of the committee by the Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel. This person will immediately write to the person being considered and to the local meeting on Ministry and Counsel, giving the names of the committee members, describing the process and asking for assistance in arranging interviews and gathering the necessary information.
- The committee may find the following documents helpful:
- a long letter or resume from the person under consideration, giving education, history of memberships in meetings and other religious organizations, appointments to Friends' committees and positions, published writings if any, and a description of the person's spiritual journey.
- references from Friends and other relevant persons such as those from each meeting of which the person under consideration has been a member. It is suggested that the committee solicit the letters of reference rather than having the letters provided by the person under consideration. Recommendations by telephone or in person may have the advantage of greater depth and expressiveness; letters have the advantage of being seen by all members of the committee.
- transcripts from schools attended, with at least one reference from each, if the committee feels that a person's educational preparation is relevant to the recording, as in the case of someone who plans to serve as a pastor.
Unless otherwise arranged, all documents and references are of course to be kept strictly confidential and not shared with the person under consideration.
- It is to be expected that more than one meeting will be held with the person being considered. An initial meeting by one or two members of the committee can explain the process, go over the documents gathered, indicate what further information is needed (and the sorts of questions that might lie ahead), discuss what recording might mean to the individual, and prepare the way for a meeting with the entire committee.
- The committee will want to meet with members of the recommending monthly meeting (and of the meeting where the person lives if these are not the same), with the local Ministry and Counsel and other leaders, and perhaps with the meeting for business. Any reservations of members of the local meeting may be discussed. It may be appropriate at this point to explain the various kinds of recognition of gifts that can be made by the monthly meeting without Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel approval.
- If the person under consideration is ministering in a programmed setting or performing service such as workshop facilitation, and direct observation is possible, it is recommended that the committee make a visit for observation.
As soon as the committee has arrived at clearness either to recommend or not to recommend recording, the clerk sends its report to the clerk of the Coordinating Committee for Ministry and Counsel of the Yearly Meeting. In the case of a negative recommendation, all concerned should be particularly careful of the reputation of the person who has been under consideration, as well as of the confidentiality of any written or verbal statements.
If the committee feels that the answer is "not yet" instead of "never," this can be stated in an encouraging manner, together with suggestions about how further preparation might be accomplished, in order not to foreclose the possibility of the person's future service. It can be suggested to the monthly meeting that, if it feels so moved, it might further consider how the person's gifts can be recognized and encouraged by monthly meeting action. As with clearness committees generally, the members of a recording committee often maintain a special level of friendship and support with the person afterward, particularly in cases where the person is searching for channels of usefulness. Experienced Friends can be helpful in that regard.
Final action takes place at the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel. When a Friend has been recorded as having a gift in ministry, an appropriate certificate is issued. A copy is kept in the minutes of the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel. A copy of the minute is also sent for information to the Yearly Meeting, but no Yearly Meeting action is required.
When a Friend who has been recorded by another yearly meeting transfers membership to New York Yearly Meeting, a copy of the recording minute or the recording certificate is given to the clerk of the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel, which body then records the transfer of recorded status in its minutes. No further action by Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel is ordinarily necessary.